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Toy Exclusives: You Should Be Free to Buy As Many As You Like

As I noted in my post on exclusives post a few weeks back, toy companies do not get it – if they really, really wanted just to thank their biggest fans – they should do so by giving them something – how do they determine that? I do not know. But short of them driving around the country and physically verifying that you have at least 500 CARS diecast & then John Lasseter personally hands you a diecast pickup truck named after you with your eye color and designed in the shirt you are wearing that day, what’s the other option?

How about they create things you want to buy – isn’t that thanks enough?

Yes, the process is idiotic. They pool their collective brainpower and try and guess how many they can sell. In the case of Mattel, some of their recent decisions cause you to question their shoe size IQ. Let’s just make 1,000 Convoy Brothers. Let’s make 4 million of Francesco, Race Team Mater, Finn McMissile and LM with Racing Wheel because their apparent thinking was that CARS 2 would cause all of America to want 4 DIECASTS and 4 diecasts only. Their presumption was that these 4 would sell out and sweep the nation. Sure, you could quibble with that but okay, that’s not a terrible bet but PART 2 to their thinking was that after buying those 4, NO ONE really wanted any OTHER diecasts so let’s just make a few thousand of the other 30 choices. And let’s make sure we keep shipping those 4 because that’s all American’s want to buy. AND in fact, let’s limit some of those other 30 to only 2,000 or 4,000 in production because it’s “fun,” or collectors will like it.

Yes, people like the word CHASE on a card – but why stop there? Why not do the Willy Wonka thing and just make 5 and sprinkle them throughout the word. If 4,000 is “fun,” isn’t just 5 infinitely much more fun by a huge margin by that reasoning?

Or is it much more fun and more profitable to sell MORE to MORE customers who want to buy them?

I’m not suggesting a crazy unlimited run like the 4 glitches of CARS 2 but there seems to be no lack of love for THE KING (see eBay pricing) and NO ONE claims he’s limited, right? Numbers do not necessarily make them more or less sought after. If you look at the ten rarest production CARS, many of them don’t fetch much more than a typical CARS diecast release of that era.

CARS is the STAR WARS of diecast. LITERALLY, 98% of the over 1,000 releases on cards is a SELLOUT. Some are instant, some take a few months but 980 of 1,000 releases are gone from the store pegs within weeks. While this sellout rate might be true of Hot Wheels, I think it’s safe to say that CARS diecasts hold their value. Maybe you aren’t going to get a super huge return re-selling most of your CARS diecast on cards but again, 98% hold their original value – you certainly cannot say that for Hot Wheels. I have never seen a pile of CARS diecasts in a bin marked 2 or 4 for $.99 at toy shows.

That is why the CARS diecast market is different – what I’m arguing may not apply to another line where 500 is a good exclusive number but clearly after 7 years and a virtual sellout (98%), the business model is different.

So, that leads us to buying exclusives. Again, if a toy manufacturer wanted to “thanks” fans, they are going about it all wrong. You thank fans by giving them something – not by selling limited exclusives.

You don’t thank me for anything by limiting what I want.

I don’t want your thanks. I want you to make something I want to buy at a reasonable price. That is all the thanks I want.

Look at the recent Kmart Ivan giveaway. Yes, I appreciate you giving me a free CAR by buying $20 worth of product. That is all fine.

BUT how many of you were annoyed you COULD NOT FIND ENOUGH product to buy?

Is that dumb or a smart business plan?

I want to thank you for buying our products – by the way, we are not going to offer much for sale this month at this one retailer where the deal is on-going?

Do you feel thanks?

Do you feel love?

OR would you rather they just take your money?

So, not only did this promotion cost them the wholesale of this diecast but also postage and handling AND the bonus of annoying about 80-99% of your customer base to some extent?

And this extends to when they sell an exclusive. They feel the need to “thank you” by limiting how many you can buy. In the case of Mattel, they insist it’s 6 per order. NOT 6 per household but 6 per order. How ever will you defeat this 2-foot high fence?

You could simply clear your browser cache & history.
You could load about 10 different browsers on your computer, tablet & smartphone – or order 60 in about 10-minute time?

Or even if it’s 6 per household, how ever will you find another address to mail items to?

YOU CANNOT defeat HUMAN NATURE – face it, we will climb over, burrow under or just plain go ape-bat crazy when you tell us we cannot do something. So, why fight it? Why not make MORE MONEY? What a crazy concept huh? Instead of spending money on building a fence to limit how many you can buy – why not take that money to make MORE of an item?

Crazy, huh?

I’m not here to judge you. If you want things that say CHASE and limited production of 1,000 or 4,000 or whatever, that is your call. I’m only here to argue that artificial shortages are stupid and the business of business is to sell MORE THINGS – especially something that is NOT perishable. A million, okay, that might be too many but if a regular release that is produced in a run of about 45,000 to 60,000 (for an uncommon release) that appears 2 to the first case and maybe appears twice more during the year like maybe Darrell Cartrip with headset as a baseline of an item that sells out in a few weeks, clearly the market can support a run of 5,000 to 10,000 for most exclusives.

So, whether you want to buy 1, 2 or 100 – the future value of this object might affect your purchase but should your standards apply to everyone? If the Apple CAR was offered tomorrow at $20, many people would only buy 1 – after all, they only have 1 set of Piston Cup racers, why would you need many more? Some might buy one to open and one to save. Others might want to buy 100. If you want to buy 100 if only another 1,000 are made, great – clearly there is economic justification in re-selling. But what if 10,000 more made, would that stop you from buying 100? Should it? Why should Mattel care? Would you not want an Apple CAR if 10,000 were made? Or 60,000? Well, perhaps if 60k of a common release sells out at $3.49 so maybe % wise, there should be 20k of the Apple CAR made – or perhaps Mattel should keep making as many as people want to buy?

In other words, are you only collecting CARS diecasts because you want to keep them away from other people? Or do you collect because they hold their value? Do you collect because their value/valuable? Or some other reason? Does it matter? Of course, we often collect things because others want them but does that apply to everything you collect or find interesting, amusing or esthetically pleasing? Bottom line – does it matter or should it matter? Or in the case of CARS, is the Lightning McQueen diecast less appealing to you because there are about 50-million floating around?

In the case of Barry Diesel, my feeling is that Mattel designed it for SDCC 2011 but Disney might’ve put the kabosh on it as it conflicted with CARS 2 marketing (SDCC was around the time CARS 2 had just opened) since Barry was from CARS 1 – so they put it on MattyCollector who clearly is more interested in selling action figures and after a while, they just dropped it – even though a pallet or two of of Barry Diesel’s do not take up much room – Mattel has some giant warehouses. So, it languished somewhere all this time until it was offered to CTC who took them up on the offer. It seems a very simple proposition. If the price is right for you, buy it from CTC – if it’s not, don’t buy it. They did not create robots dressed like you to stand by people’s mailboxes to collect your Barry Diesel orders. Though that would be cool to see. 🙂 Mattel could’ve sold it online at Shop Mattel, taken them to a bunch of shows since 2011 but decided it was better stored until recently. Why? No idea. That you can take up with Mattel.

But again, as I suggested in my previous post on exclusives. Those in the wholesale/re-selling business should be allowed to buy as many as they want separately from individuals. I am not buying CARS diecast because they are rare. Call me a freak, I like them because I like them. I want Mattel to make money on them so they can stay in business and make more. I have CARS diecast in my collection they have made literally a million of them. Lightning & King are two of my favorite diecasts. I do not like them any less because they are “common.”

I want everyone who is interested in buying diecast CARS to have a reasonable shot at buying them. (I am not diminished because your collection rivals mine 🙂  In fact, I’m only ever jealous when I see the utter joy when a small kid only has like 4 CARS but has so much fun with them – just as I wish I could run around a tree at top speed, getting dizzy, fall down and laugh for 10-minutes … rats, just too old).

I am only ever interested in buying a few of something but if you want 100 to display, store or sell, Mattel should set up a Costco line separately so Mattel can MAXIMIZE the number of sales – satisfying individuals and bulk buyers – instead of wasting money on a blocking process plus increasing shipping costs by breaking everything in blocks of 6 when if someone wants a pallet, just load it onto a semi and freight it.

Make more product to make more money.

Pretty freakin’ radical, I know.

It’s not like 98% of the diecasts have sold out for 7 straight years and now PLANES diecasts sell out just as quickly but by all means, let’s make it harder to sell and buy things.


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  • D J says:

    Mattel…you listening?

  • Mariela says:

    Loved this post Met!

  • danrio says:

    Great informative article!

    I’ve been a collector (almost) since day 1 of the original “Cars” in 2006. I spotted them at Target about 2 weeks after the movie opened. Then there were only 12 and I thought it would be nice to have the complete set, so after 4 or 5 visits to Target, I was able to complete that. But then there were several new additions I had to search for; and later a few more, etc. It was fun trying to find them because they were only hard to find. Then came the “Story Tellers”. Not as plentiful, but they still led me on a merry chase to “collect ’em all”. Still somewhat hard to find (like Bubba) but ONLY hard to find. After the progressions of more new releases peppered with a few “chase” cars (a little harder to find), we came to the “Final Lap” series which, like the others were sometimes a little more difficult to find. By the time we got down to the last 20 or so “Cars” releases, some of those were available only in Europe and almost non-existent in the States. I think I bought over half of those at premium prices on eBay.

    Enter Cars2 and the “Chase” and “Ultimate Chase” cars and Mattel has raised the bar from “hard to find” up to “nearly impossible to find” in many areas. I have yet to see any of the 5 “ultimates” in the wild and, in fact have not even seen many of the regular “chase” cars there, either. I feel I’m doing well just getting most of the regular issues when they appear between log jams. I don’t believe that rarities should be a common occurrence. It points only to, as Met discussed, a great deal of manipulation by the manufacturer, both in numbers and distribution.

  • quercy says:

    I am wondering what is really the ratio of collectors of Cars diecast? 10% ? 15% ? More? Less? Knowing that answer may answers all our questions… No?

    (MET: When we took our poll in 2009? Around 20% of people said they were completists – presumably many have fallen from that rank – you do have to be hardy to stick with it for 7 years and minimally have around 600 CARS).

    • quercy says:

      I am not considering myself as a completist. I am a non-opener collector of Disney and Mattel Cars and Planes. I also buying a lot for my boys to play with and my collection is a bit over a thousand counting the duplicates from 2-packs up to set of 20 because they containt an exclusive or two… I am not collecting minor variants such as eyes or facial expressions, different Mattel card or Disney background card such as RIP which has 3 different one I believe. All that said, what ever how your collection boundaries are what I am still wondering is what is the ratio of “collectors” versus moms and dads buying Cars and/or Planes here and there to please the kids ? and I am also counting myself in that group too. Obviously most of people posting here are somehow collectors and we will complaint all day long about why and how this and that and all our whistlists and dreams will be posted in here or on some other similar forums. And it is absolutely normal as a collector standpoint. However we are probably just a small fraction of all Cars and Planes diecast comsumers doing what we are doing and that’s make me believe Mattell do not base their marketing strategy for collectors but to the mass which have proove works really well since apparently their sales success is near perfection. Am I off track that much ?

      (MET: There is a great quote from the movie North Dallas Forty where a player complains that is something to the effect, “When I call it a game, they (the owner) call it a business, when I call it a business, they call it a game.”

      It’s EXACTLY the same with Mattel. Mattel calls it a business or a collector’s line depending on the circumstance … but they are never wrong … 🙂 🙁 :-/ ).

      • MoMcQueen says:

        I must defer on matters like this to those of you who have been collecting for a lot longer than I. I do, however, ponder the point at which a person goes from self-identifying as a mom or dad or grandparent happily buying Cars or Planes for their kids to a certifiable (or certifiably insane) collector. Is there a 50 Shades of Collector quiz? Questions to pose to oneself to see where you should self-declare on the scale? With multiple choice with questions that go from “My kids can’t tell the difference between Happy Meal Fillmore and a Fillmore’s Festival mini Fillmore and neither can I” to “I hereby bequest my collection of hermetically-sealed Desert Back error card Filmore/Fillmores to the George Carlin section of the Route 66 museum….” I’d like to know how far I’ve slid. Or maybe I wouldn’t. 

        (And I loved your hockey card story, quercy. It felt like we were right there with you.) 

  • Wraukn says:

    Excellent Met! I love your insight. I’ve always wondered why Mattel spends money making a unique mold (like Todd Pizza Truck) and only release it once. If they are going to follow the Hot Wheels method of chases and super chases, why not follow the HW method of using the molds over and over again. They beat the Suki mold to death and there are so many other background characters that could easily be made. AND they would all be sold!

  • Matersgrlfriend says:

    You captured my thoughts perfectly! I started collecting with my 2 little 2 year olds in 2006. They no longer play with the Cars, but they still like to collect with me. There has to be a happy medium where you don’t have to hit the stores when the doors open on truck day in order to find anything worth buying, but there is still a little bit of a hunt. I still have yet to see Rip on the pegs and its not for lack of trying and its so disheartening to go day after day and see the same old nothing (or 35 Francescos, same diff). Same with planes. Talking to other parents at D23 and Comicon while looking at the Cars displays, I heard the same thing over and over again, they can never find new Cars on the pegs for their kids. That pretty much kills off any new potential customers. There are so many Cars that we want. If they would just make them and put them on the shelves, we would buy. It seems so simple, why is is so hard?

  • BMW says:

    Those who have been at this since the very beginning always can recall what a heck of a time it was finding Cars at retail. Right after seeing the movie in June 2006 I wanted a little memento to remember the characters. I found out quickly, these were sold out everywhere. Toys R Us, Walmart and Target.

    A Toys R Us lady told me to go to a college town 1.5 hours away that had stock. And so we did. My first ever Cars set of Desert Backs (minus Lizzie and Sarge of course) (both were short packed from the very beginning) came from that small Texas College town. And so it began… for many of us stubborn enough to go the distance, over the miles and over the years.

    Things haven’t changed much in these 75 months….

  • MoMcQueen says:

    I think Mattel does it deliberately and for good reason. I know that by saying this I’m not going to win a lot of friends here, but I’ve been doing some soul-searching and I don’t think I’d actually be so enthusiastic about collecting Cars if it were easy. 

    People are, by nature, drawn to that which is the most difficult to attain. My kids would be happy with a herd of 25 Lightning McQueens; I’m the one who wants the chases and super chases. Mattel keeps this line alive AND VALUABLE by catering to the adults who are willing, like me, to buy whole cases of 24 cars at a time from authorized resellers just to get the four characters we want. Would I give a hoot about Cars if I could walk into Target or Walmart any day of the week and see the pegs packed with new characters? Nope. I’d say, “Meh, they’ll be here next time, I’ll get them later.” And then I wouldn’t. They would cease to interest me. 

    Another reader admit it last week too. And that got me thinking: I might have initially collected Cars for my kids but I crossed the line to the dark side a long, long time ago. And if kids are old enough to believe that only a super chase will make them happy, well, then they’re old enough to learn a lesson in the value of money as it pertains to supply and demand. I’m serious. That’s what allowance is for. And it doesn’t matter if you collect toys or if you collect rocks. Sooner or later you get tired of the ones you can find in your driveway and you start to want only the shiny, polished ones that come from the rock hunters. At any age. Enter the all-important life lesson: if you want it badly enough that you decide you need it, your next decision is what it’s worth to you. 

    Sure, in Canada, we might get one case of 2013 Cars once a quarter just to whet our appetite. Mattel throws us a bone now and then but it’s not enough to satisfy the hunger. Well-fed people are complacent and that does not fare well in a collector’s market. Plus, I’ve noticed that if there’s one thing people who collect Cars love more than collecting Cars, it’s complaining about how hard it is to collect Cars. Ha ha! So, that’s my humble opinion. Please don’t start throwing all the rocks in all your collections at me all at once. 

    (MET: First, you are free to disagree with me but my argument is that CARS was doing fine with no CHASE program and a few exclusives from 2006 to 2008. The initial CHASE program seemed to work fine with around 20k available spread out at the Big Four retailers in 2009. I would say the one plan that drove a lot of collectors away and confused a solid 25% of newbies – splitting off the FINAL LAP and producing very few of them AND the lenticulars at the other retailers started in 2009 and continued in 2010. And of course, even in 2011, everything in CARS 2 sold fine EXCEPT for the overproduced 4 without any CHASES until 2012 … and no CHASE PLANES – diecasts seem to be selling fine. Sometimes you need a gimmick. But if you’re selling quality, all you need to do is make more. As a long time collector, I’d bet there are at least a dozen CARS diecast you could name that you would buy 5 of each to display – doesn’t matter if they were produced as a CHASE, SUPER CHASE or flooding the market … that is CARS).

    • quercy says:

      I fit very well in your comment and I think most of the hardcore collectors will not necessarely embrace this fact but this is exactly what is it. A good example is when I was collecting hockey cards years ago… Collecting them was about the same thing…. One daaaaay, I traded all my doubles (and I mean couple hundreds) to get the only missing card I need to complete the O-Pee-Chee set that year… Cesare Maniago! A Minnesota Stars goaltender….(We are talking early 70’s in here… LOL!) I will remember that all my life… walking back home under falling snowflakes looking at my last piece of the puzzle… What a feeling! Then couple decades later you can just walk in any general store and buy a complete factory set for $40… no double, no repeat, no hassle, no soft corners, no bubble gum mark or powder, no hunting… This is when I stop collecting hockey cards… that was the end of an area for me… No more fun buying single pack with bubble gum, trading with friends and scratching the checklists… Keep in mind internet did not exist at that time. 🙂 Today I kind of found the same thrill with cars… and chasing the expanded universe of Cars and Planes is not that easy… even with all the tools we have! So if you want, I can share the hit with you 😉

    • MoMcQueen says:

      MET, please don’t get me wrong: I don’t disagree with you. What happened with the Convoy Brothers was a debacle! What’s transpired with the Bermuda Square of Cars 2 diecasts (you don’t disappear into it; it never disappears, period) causes one to wonder what on earth Mattel is thinking. But while I used to believe there was absolutely no method to their madness, I now suspect they WANT to make us crazy. It works for them even when it doesn’t work for us. And they are able to accomplish it with little to no actual effort.

      I totally agree there are Cars that everyone loves simply because they’re great characters or simply great diecasts. Throwing the word CHASE or SUPER CHASE on the package only serves to remove free will from the scenario; I see those words and my eyes glaze over. I’ll buy them because I’m a sucker for punishment and I know it. It shouldn’t be like pulling teeth to find something to spend your money on. But I broke down and started buying Micro Drifters this summer when there was nothing else left. I did! Just to get my Ivan fix. I am the very reason Mattel can do whatever they like and escape unscathed. 

      I agree there needs to be a more logical, consistent method of putting the stuff that people want into the hands of those who want it. Most recent case in point is the Convoy Brothers. That was botched, and badly. In so many ways. When I see Cars 2 cases that predate the movie release still being unloaded at my Toys R Us, it too blows my mind. Is that Mattel’s stupidity, or is it the fault of retail? Is it possible that these companies just lose track of inventory? Thousands of units at a time? Is that what happened with Barry Diesel? 

      It’s a fine line to tread. Too much of something and no one wants it. Not enough and they’ve only infuriated people. Throw in some warehouse bingo and you’ve got a game where no one feels like they’ve won, everyone shouts, and the guys in suits standing at the front of the room just spin that little barrel all night long, bouncing their balls to no effect. But we all keep playing…. hoping to hit that jackpot. And the harder the game to win, the bigger the prize. 

  • PirateDad says:

    I have been collecting from day 1 in 2006. I have given up many times but they keep reeling me back in. Living in Canada increases the frustration with little love shown north of the border and the privledge of paying double for the same thing only one hour away. The recent 2 pack Movie Moments have sparked my interest and even though the closet TRU is either one hour West, East or South, I have managed to get to them all twice in the past two weeks. (plus a few in Toronto more than two hours away) However I have only been able to find 2.5 sets, not nearly enough for the people who have asked me to help them, after YEARS of helping me. While I genuinely cherish these friendships and wood knot have made them without the NEED to trade, Mattel surely wood make more money by just distributing Cars to the stores who sell them. I still do a HAPPY DANCE when I find NEW cars in the WILD and for a 6’2″ 300+ lbs biker, I must look pretty silly walking up to the little stock boy and asking him to pretty please with sugar on top, look in the back room for this dinky car for me. Thanks for the article Met and for all the HELP over the years to everyone out there i have traded and bought from.

  • Tom says:

    Well said, Met.
    Hunting for Cars isn’t much fun when your success rate is below 10%.

  • simoncars says:

    Excellent article. I have been collecting
    Cars since 2006. My son has outgrown
    his love for all of his other collections
    accept one Disney Cars. Sadly the ones
    he really loves are the Super Chase.
    Canada accept for the new 2 packs
    is still stocked with the Porto Corso line.
    Super Chase has never been released
    here. My son has asked why can’t he
    ever have a SC what do I say one not released
    in Canada and two people are buying
    the SC and charging 10 times the actual
    price because they are fortunate to live
    in a area where they are so easily available .
    Makes me crazy/sad I can’t get a car
    for my child and like so many other parents
    who can’t afford to indulge in such a huge
    expense because the package has SC
    written on it .

    • MoMcQueen says:

      I make my own luck. I, too, live in Canada. The Cars 2 Super Chase NEVER made it to retail anywhere in North America. If you see fellow Canadian collectors with them, they bought a whole case of whatever case they were in at the time from an authorized reseller in The States to get them. As I did. Don’t harbor resentment that someone beat you to them at the store because that didn’t happen. As to the 2013 Super Chases…. time will tell. I’m not holding my breath. If I really want it, I get the case it’s in and dispose of the rest as I best see fit. 

  • bobbyjack says:

    Great article, Met. I have been collecting almost 4 years and am an opener. My son is almost 6 and my youngest daughter is almost 4, so they still play with the Cars. My son gets way more excited over a new Ninja Turtle or Transformer, but he still likes getting new Cars. It was kind of sad yesterday though, my wife gave him the new Tokyo Mater box set to open and he left it on the table. My daughter likes the Cars too, but not nearly as much as my son did when he was younger. I have driven my wife crazy the past couple of weeks because I’m always out trying to find the last 2 Super Chases. At least this year Mattel put them out to the retail stores, so it has kind of been fun looking for them. I think I’m going to be pretty much done after this year though. I already need another couple display cases for our open Cars and I think 4 years collecting these is long enough. It seems the kids aren’t really into as much anymore. Hopefully when they are older and really look at all the awesome diecasts we have displayed, they will remember the fun we had building this collection.

  • collectormom says:

    I find Mattel to be a very frustrating company. I dislike Chase Cars and really hate Super Chase Cars. I will never find them in a store. Someone will have always gotten there first or worse yet, the store doesn’t have anything new because the pegs are clogged with Cars they got a year ago and won’t be getting anything new until they sell what they have.

    We are a military family so we move about every 2 years. Since 2007 we’ve lived in different parts of NY and TX and now Germany. I think this gives me a unique perspective on Cars shopping. We had it best in San Antonio and El Paso. West Point wasn’t too bad but Fort Drum was a challenge. We lived in TX from 2007-2009, the height of Cars shopping. After that we were in NY. Still a lot of buying but limited in the stores I had to choose from. We’ve been in Germany for about 3 months now and I’m still trying to figure out where to look for Cars. There is a small TRU, they appear to be about 6 months behind (not lucky enough to find what Nico found). I went to Real Markt, they had about 30 pegs! Becky Wheelin was the newest Car they had. And it didn’t seem like they’d be getting anything new anytime soon.

    Met I agree with everything you said. We buy Cars because like them. We play with them and still get excited when we get a new one. Hopefully when my boys are grown they’ll remember how much fun they had playing with them and will do the same with their kids.

  • NascarFan says:

    For someone who buys for others, one lot shot would be nice, but oh well…

    Thank you Ridemakerz: They made it happen.

  • Thanks for the info, Met.
    You answered my question from another page.
    Mattel is continuing to dump most/all left over product wherever it can from Matty/Digital River site including Barry Diesel at CTC, Masters of the Universe and Ghostbusters at BIG LOTS, Dark Knight Rises at Ollie’s Discount, DC Universe classics at Rose’s Discount and Big Lots.
    And that’s just the information that I know about.
    I am sure that there was many more Mattel dumps.
    My rancor is meant for Mattel’s poor selling patterns. Not CTC.
    My friends who bought from Matty collector in the past are holding off now, expecting to find this desirable product in cheaper venues.
    Matty should say that their product is their exclusive only for as long that want it to be.
    Imagine the buyer and supporter of Matty who paid Matty $125 for the Ghostbusters 2 pack only to go to Big Lots to see it there for $30.
    I would be pissed off and not want to suppport Matty in the future.
    No wonder the Ecto 1 and figures and the DC subs have been cancelled.

  • cac1959 says:

    Very well written… thank you.

    From someone who buys because I like them… still… even after my grandchildren have outgrown them and my wife wishes that I would too.

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